Marijuana Debate Ratchets Up In Congress While VA Says No to Medical Cannabis

Marijuana Debate Ratchets Up In Congress While VA Says No to Medical Cannabis

By Ed Coghlan.

There’s a bipartisan move in Congress to squeeze federal efforts to thwart the growing marijuana industry.

California Democrat Barbara Lee and Alaska Republican Don Young had introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that would bar federal funding for efforts that seek to detain, prosecute, sentence or initiate civil proceedings against people and businesses in the marijuana industry.

That may put a crimp in Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ efforts to limit the use of marijuana, both recreationally and medically.

In other news, the Department of Veterans Affairs will not conduct research into the effects of medical cannabis on post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain — some of the very ailments veteran patients rely on the drug to treat.

VA Secretary David Shulkin said in a letter Minnesota Democrat Rep. Tim Walz, that the department is unable to research medical cannabis due to federal restrictions. “VA is committed to researching and developing effective ways to help Veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain conditions.”

A VA review of existing medical research last year found no proof that medical cannabis works for chronic pain or PTSD.

For medical cannabis advocates, the VA Announcement is another indication that the Trump Administration is trying to hamstring the cannabis industry.

“This is so sad – one step ahead and two behind lately with this administration. Attorney Jeff Session is creating havoc with the medical cannabis community, putting fear into law-abiding citizens successfully finding safe pain relief from cannabis and now left to wonder if they are back to being targets by the FEDS again.,” said Ellen Smith, who works with her husband, Stu, as Co-Director for cannabis advocacy for the US Pain Foundation. 

Her husband Stu, who also is a leading advocate for expanded use of medical cannabis to treat chronic pain, thinks this is another example of the “little guy” being squeezed.

“This is a conspiracy of powerful political and economic interests whose goal is to limit or eliminate the utilization of medical cannabis. As a legal caregiver I have provided many patients with medical cannabis. I have observed directly the often life altering impact of cannabis when utilized responsibly as a medication,” he said.”Our brave veterans will  however be allowed to legally self medicate themselves with alcohol , nicotine, and opioids while the process of initiating the needed valuable research on cannabis is stymied for reasons which on the surface make no sense.”

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Paulette Wright at 1:27 pm

    All government must get this corrected. Differentiate between an illegal drug addict, drug cartels killing people, and a chronic pain patient needing opiates to control pain. There is a difference, get educated. Pain patients control their medications. They dont sell their drugs. Addicts do sell,buy,illegally. No marijuana is not the answer, and pain patients should not be forced to use it!

  2. Danny Elliott at 7:34 am

    I have a serious problem when an article, such as this one, selectively uses an umbrella-type statement that “… the VA announcement is another indication that the Trump Administration is trying to hamstring the cannabis industry.” While I’m not necessarily disagreeing with this particular statement, I believe that such a selective use of “the Trump Administration” only discredits the point the author is trying to make.

    This is a subject that I’ve been harping on since President Trump took office a year ago. The media seems to pick-and-choose what President Trump is responsible for (or representative of). However, it’s my opinion that either all actions of government agencies during President Trump’s administration should be attributed to his Administration or these agencies are nearly autonomous, with the exception of when the President specifically and publicly directs their actions. When President Trump disregarded with the recommendation of the “Commission on Combating Drug Addiction” (headed by then New Jersey Governor Chris Christie) to declare “a National emergency” and, instead, called for “a public health emergency”, I believe that he saw the difference between the addiction problem and the need for Americans to have access to needed pain medications.

    A perfect example of this is the CDC’s press release of their “prescribing guidelines for chronic pain” in March, 2016. It states that the guidelines are for “Primary Care Physicians”. If you look up the press release, there are references to President Obama’s “first National Drug Control Strategy” in 2010 as well as the Affordable Care Act of the same year. But nowhere is it stated that President Obama was responsible, or involved, in the creation of the “guidelines”. And most of us know that the Veteran’s Administration proceeded to turn these “guidelines” into rules, used against those military members who deserve, most of all, the proper treatment for their pain and suffering.

    Ironically, the CDC has continued to make discoveries that contradict their reasoning for the guidelines in the first place, most importantly that the prevalence and deadliness of Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl (IMF) . Please read the CDC’s September 1, 2017, “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR):
    https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6634a3.htm . In the “Discussion” section of this report, it specifically states: “Approximately 90% of unintentional overdose deaths…that occurred during January and February 2017 involved fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, or both.” Further down, while it seems to attempt to hedge its bets, this quote appears: “… toxicology reports cannot distinguish between pharmaceutical and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, although PREVIOUS REPORTS indicate that the MAJORITY OF FENTANYL LINKED TO FATAL OVERDOSES in this country is suspected to be ILLICITLY MANUFACTURED FENTANYL.” How many readers have read about this in a newspaper or seen it covered on television newscasts? While these MMWR’s are published on the CDC website, I’ve yet to find a “press release” similar to the one released about the “prescribing guidelines” and I’ve certainly not seen media coverage of this information.

    It’s my own personal opinion that Illicitly Manufactured Fentanyl has been in the USA for much longer than the CDC or DEA either knows or is willing to admit. If this were to be verified, the CDC and DEA have a lot to lose. Hence, the raids on respected Pain Management Doctors continue in order to keep alive the perception that pain medications, ALONE, are a lethal danger to society when the CDC, FDA and DEA very well may know that this isn’t the total truth.

    In summary, before blaming President Trump for the actions of everybody in Washington, DC, let’s all take a step back and a deep breath before jumping to such a conclusion. There at are three branches to our Federal government – four, if you ask members of the media. President Trump isn’t solely responsible for the hamstringing the cannabis industry any more than he’s solely responsible for the raging stock market. We sometimes give more credit and responsibility to an individual than we should.

  3. Davido at 10:30 pm

    RE; Bob Schubring’s post.
    Thanks Mr. Schubring for the update on the “Washington v Sessions” case. I didn’t know there were any meaningful counter measures out there. This is encouraging. Your post should be presented as a stand alone headline news article. Everyone affected needs to weigh in as you suggest. I’m just astounded that plain, obvious and reasoned practices must be so hard fought! Proof of a real devil.

  4. D.Kraus at 9:10 pm

    Bob that sounds like something that can actually be accomplished
    Need to research this idea,of course the right attorney is the thing
    And of course money is what the right attorney wants
    But yeah Bob I think you got something

  5. Misti at 6:47 pm

    The hypocrisy the DEA preliminary approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration this week for Syndros, a synthetic marijuana drug.
    “Syndros is a synthetic formulation of THC, the main psychoactive component in the cannabis plant. It was approved by the FDA last summer to treat nausea, vomiting and weight loss in cancer and AIDS patients. The DEA approval places Syndros and its generic formulations in Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act, indicating a “high potential for abuse.” Other Schedule II drugs include cocaine, morphine and many prescription painkillers.” copied and pasted from By Christopher Ingraham The Washing ton Post. This is the DEA admitting that https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/24/a-pharma-company-that-spent-500000-trying-to-keep-pot-illegal-just-got-dea-approval-for-synthetic-marijuana/?utm_term=.218d160bbd3d
    Isn’t this the DEA admitting benefits of cannabinoids and their reason not to legalize Medical marijuana and keeping a schedule 1 is it has no medical benefit . This made me laugh out loud to myself what a joke. We The People are suppose to be death,dumb and blind as to what is going on.

  6. NANA at 5:23 pm

    We have a big enough problem stopping the war on chronic pain patients because opioids (pain pills of most any type) are politically a hot potato. They just aren’t PC. Pain Doctors are being haunted and hassled, arrested and jailed as in- “see- no one else should try to help. We can come after you as well.”

    And marijuana. It has always been illegal but it is a much prettier PC now than pain pills. It is IN to push pot.

    Did you know 90% of people pushing marijuana use it recreationally. That only leaves 10% who have used it medically to speak about it. And in any study, some are found to be not helped by whatever they are being tested with. So part of the 10% have decided it is a good pain reliever?

    I don’t like it. Yes. I have used it (recreationally by the way) and did not like the feeling it gave me. I was not chronically ill at the time and don’t know if it would have helped pain. It made me feel happy and pain gets worse when you are not happy. But is that enough?

    I do know some took a big hit and held it a long time. Some coughed so they didn’t hold it as long. Each breath in and how long you hold it depends/decides how much you are getting. It stays in your system longer. I felt VERY UNSAFE driving afterwards but many who are fearless drive anyway.

    Please don’t push on the PC part . wait until tests are in. Can they at some time MEASURE IT CORRECTLY- LIKE 10 Mg…. LIKE YOU CAN WITH PAIN PILLS?

    10 PERCENT ISN’T VERY MANY.

  7. Kathy C at 3:06 pm

    This is really interesting. In my state the Media is still going on about the “Prescription Drug Epidemic” even though they cracked down in 2011. The Meth problem is either ignored or skimmed over. In some places in my state the Meth problem has overtaken Heroin, yet the local Media does not acknowledge it. In one town they publish the Arrest Records, and Meth appears to be the number one drug that people who get arrested are using. I suppose the perceived jackpot they expect to receive from the Pharma Companies they are suing over the Opiate Epidemic, might be clouding their perception.

  8. Jim Moulton at 2:52 pm

    Honestly, I don’t Think that pot would help my pain. The generic oxycodone I take does not do a good job, but I am grateful for it, just wish I could take brand name.
    Jim

  9. Kahty C at 11:26 am

    The Marijuana Debacle illustrates just how absurd US drug policies are. The first and foremost argument for pot, is that no one ever died from it. This cannot be said of the many Pharma Products they are freely prescribing. The drugs they give Veterans for PTSD are more dangerous and life damaging, than marijuana. Pharma has no “Cure” for PTSD, which has left Doctors to prescribe random ineffective combinations of Drugs. They do the same thing with pain or mental disorders. In order to continue this practice they have to keep Gas Lighting the public.
    I have doubts about how effective Marijuana is for pain, but there are people who claim it works. There are a lot of people who claim it works for PTSD, Anxiety and Sleep. What the Pharma Industry will not allow is any direct research. They can’t allow any direct comparison with any Pharma product. The Marijuana Industry is making a lot of unscientific and misleading claims too.
    The current Administration has made it abundantly clear they will not support Science, reason, or common sense. They will support the Industries that profit from this confusion. The so called “War on Drugs’ has not worked and resuscitating it, won’t lead anywhere good. The Installation of Industry Insiders at Federal Agencies, and the chipping away at regulations, while presenting Pseudo Science as fact should really be terrifying. The Media refuses to cover this topic in a meaningful way. Even the costs of this are being effectively censored.

  10. Ibin at 11:02 am

    I, as a patient with pain now for 23 years have had success with opioid medication therapy. I am totally open to try cannabis based products. Unfortunately it is illegal to possess in my state. That would not stop me from trying cannabis but, I am a patient at a pain management facility and I have no other resource to manage lifetime pain from surgeries and have been for 23 years.If cannabis is detected in my bi-monthly drug screen, I would be dismissed from now inadequate opioid medication prescribing. I have been treated successfully enough with opioid medication to own and operate a small business now for 23 years. Treated with medication because it has been accepted for pain managment treatment for patients with disease generating pain and others that have….lifetime, incurable, only symptom manageable pain.

    IF I wished to used cannabis (it iS available) I can not as I am still a patient with a pain management doctor who is prescribing within the CDC “guideline” for his own personal protection and practices prescribing with ALL justification to prescribe medication such as drug screening and “pill counting” at my every 8 week appointment. He WAS in fact threatened for a lack of better terminology just like ALL physicians with a DEA number to not exceed CDC guidelines .I HOPE for compassionate or sane reasoning within the medical community and “law” that the CDC policy will be amended to let our physicians appropriately prescribe but, DEA seems to be running the show with all pain management therapy.

    Pain management patients must now make choices. Remain with physicians that can prescribe “X” amount of opioid medicaion as per the CDC conversion chart, be referred to a specialist in pain management who can prescribe “x” amount of opioid medication (a little more) again witin the CDC conversion chart, spend money on alternative pain management therapies that may or may not work such as kratom, cbd oil with zero thc as a supplement or seek illicit, dangerous substances. I agree that DEA is practicing medicine and without regard to documentation from medical providers that can prescribe with documented results that cannabis and cannabis products either produce positive results with patients or if they don’t. To me this is pretty good clinical evidence, proof if you will that cannabis products do in fact help manage pain AND other health issues with patients.

    As far as the states that do not have cannabis use “policies”, we the patients are stuck with what works for us. Opioid medication, used as diected, prescribed appropriately to patients that seek pain managment through accredited, licensed physicians. We are now sent into a spiral of various issues which not the least is ineffective pain management with no direction from our providers and totally governed by dot/gov (DEA)

    As far as cannabis and cannabis products being “too dangerous” for clinical study in the US, that is rediculous. Other countires do have medical research into cannabis products as a viable alternative to opioid medication and it is NOT accepted just because “clinical studies” have not been alllowed in the US. The US have the ONLY intel into the positive use of cannabis products? Rediculous.

    Bottom line for me is that real patients with real pain management issues are now having great difficulty manageing lifetime pain to such a degree that there IS employment loss, personal emotional and psychological issues being created, totally disabled patients are having great difficulty even manageing basic life existence actions, and worst of all suicide as the last resort for patients has increased. A patients documentation with the provider as to an enabled life is being totally disregarded with the HHS, CDC decision to place a limitation on dosage of opioid medication therapy for one and all. THIS is obsurd. WE, the patients can not transfer the way we feel to our providers or anyone else. I wish we could (temporarily) to let the blessed people without severe lifetime continuous pain realize what it is like to deal with pain continuously and pain that is out of control, not managed to a human ability to tolerate.

    Our doctors which most of us stay with for life know us. They know when an injury or disease has caused a pain issue that can not be “cured” and can only use accepted therapy to help their patients to maage lifetime pain that our bodily functions can not properly manage. Pain, not being “visible” in many patients does not mean that it is not real. It is real enough to us. If cannabis products can help manage pain and I know it can (for me) to an effective degree needs be “clinically” studied by an independent ( of dot/gov) faciltiy and stop the unneccessary persecution of patients that ….were, effectively managing pain with opioid therapy.

    The CDC guideline “policy” has cost me almost everything inside of one year of enforcement. I HAVE documentation of the benefit of opioid medication without abuse. I HAVE a record of enablement with opioid medication. I used prescribed opioid medication because I followed the accepted practice of pain management but, dot/gov simply changed the rules for providers. I am all for cannabis study. It seems to me that the states that have had medical cannabis prescribing for some time now HAVE documentation of positive results use with patients with pain and other disorders and the results are recorded but Jefff still believes that good people don’t use marijuana. What is to become of the “bad” people? Do we simply ignore them/us? Do we let us self exterminate? It would be kinder to either let our medical society that gives a damn about “chronic”pain have their results accepted or simply build humane self extermination buildings right beside the ER buildings because an ER for a pain issue short of an immediate injury is useless.

  11. Mikst_Granny at 10:56 am

    Howdy Bob!

    I’d like to connect with you and others working to protect our community members and those who care for them.

    My email address is: csralls1@yahoo.com and I’d very much like to speak with you further.

    Lots of folks want to fight back yet, with limited resources, both financial & physical, they remain daunted by the enormity of our problems, individually and collectively, and are frustrated on what steps they/we need to take to stop the abuse.

    Let’s talk!
    Thanks!

  12. Mark Ibsen MD at 7:27 am

    Bob:
    Well said.
    I would also change DEA not to study cannabis, but prove it’s harm.
    And to prove it does not work for ptsd. We will fill the hearing rooms with live vets who use cannabis,
    And
    Outraged families of dead vets who did not get the chance.

  13. Linda at 6:33 am

    Until I watched a program documenting the journey of a few families with very sick small children, I was anti cannabis everything. I still am for the most part because – federal law is federal law, and I don’t believe in breaking laws. Like them or not.

    The children I saw were taking a type of cannabis liquid – that was a specialty formulated for each child’s severe and life threatening illness. The formulation came down to being the difference of life vs death for the kids. The cannabis was THAT important.

    Until I saw it, my picture of medical marijuana was just of Cheech and Chong smoking a joint and “calling” it medicinal.

    So now I tend to believe in the whole concept of specialty growers producing a real medicine that needs to be honestly studied by a government body, and a final legal stamp of approval put on it for this purpose. If this would happen then much deeper research would go into it by private funded entities.

    All that being said, the law abiding side of me says that until and unless medical marijuana is made federally legal, it is against the law period, no matter how you feel. Then comes the mother in me that says “law? my child is dying, to hell with those laws”

  14. Bob Schubring at 6:19 am

    According to the 5 Plaintiffs suing Mr Sessions and DEA Administrator Rosenberg for practicing medicine without a license, DEA has illegally practiced medicine without a license for 44 years. A hearing on the case, “Washington v Sessions”, is set for February 14th in US District Court in New York City. Plaintiffs assert in Paragraph 21 of their Complaint, that Congress ordered DEA, as part of the Controlled Substances Act that created the DEA, to ask the Surgeon General to perform laboratory studies and hold hearings, then rule on how to regulate cannabis. Congress temporarily placed cannabis on DEA Schedule I, pending the outcome of those studies and hearings. Congress understood that it was itself practicing medicine without a license when it put 3 substances on Schedule I and provided for the hearings, so that the Surgeon General, a doctor, would make the actual ruling. According to Plaintiffs, DEA never asked for the studies nor the hearings nor the ruling, leaving a temporary state of emergency in place for 44 years. Plaintiffs are asking the judge to remove cannabis from Schedule I. If DEA wants to resume regulating cannabis, DEA must petition the Surgeon General to do the tests and hold the hearings on how cannabis is to be regulated.

    Lead plaintiff Marvin Washington, a former NFL star, owns shares in 6 corporations that deal in cannabis products. One of Mr Washington’s firms bought the exclusive rights to use a patent, that was obtained by scientists working for the Dept of HHS and owned by the Government, on cannabis as a neuroprotectant. Mr Washington asserts that the patent proves the Government knows cannabis to be medically useful. Therefore, Mr Washington alleges the DEA is lying, because DEA asserts that cannabis is medically useless and too dangerous to test. If Government scientists tested cannabis and used the test results to patent it as a Pharma drug, that proves that a safe test was done which proved medical usefulness. Mr Washington wants to proceed with clinical trials at the FDA, the federal agency that actually rules on whether substances can be used medicinally, and the DEA by seizing FDA’s authority is blocking him from making use of the patent the Government sold him. The Complaint is quite detailed, and can be read at http://www.scribd.com/document/362505297/Washington-v-Sessions-Amended-Complaint-to-deschedule-Marijuana#download

    In response, Mr Sessions put 3 lawyers to work on the case, who wrote a 68-page brief asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit so they don’t have to answer any of the charges. The 3 lawyers argue for 21 of the pages, that if the Government has a reason to do a wrong thing, the courts must not inquire into why the Government did the wrongful thing. Next they spend 6 pages, from Page 22-28, making a radical and dangerous argument about something they call “fundamental rights”. According to the 3 lawyers, freedom is only what the Government says it is. Absent a specific grant of Government freedom, freedom doesn’t exist, say the lawyers. (In his blistering dissent in “Raich v Gonzales”, Justice Clarence Thomas warned us that this would happen. He seems to have gotten that right. (545 U.S. ____ (2005). https://web.archive.org/web/20050804174843/http://wid.ap.org/scotus/pdf/03-1454P.ZD1.pdf ). Because the 3 lawyers twist and pervert everything Americans know to be true about freedom, to arrive at the conclusion that the court must ignore the fact that DEA is illegally practicing medicine without a license and allow it to continue 44 years of delays for as long as it wants, it may make people angry to read what the 3 lawyers wrote. One can see the horrid 68-page brief here: http://www.scribd.com/document/362505122/Washington-v-Sessions-de-37-Governments-Motion-to-Dismiss#download

    I’m firmly convinced that no matter what the judge rules on February 14th, his ruling will be appealed, and may end up in the Supreme Court. Mr Washington would appeal the dismissal of his lawsuit. And Mr Sessions cannot afford to answer the lawsuit, because the plain facts are that 44 years of practicing medicine without a license did horrific harm to millions of Americans, but there’s zero evidence that any lives were saved by this “emergency” DEA action. A trial would reveal that the 44-year “emergency” is a complete sham, devised to allow high-school graduates with DEA badges to control how doctors with postgraduate degrees practice medicine. So if the 68-page brief is rejected as the rubbish it is, and the judge moves forward with pretrial discovery, almost certainly Mr Sessions will appeal to the Second Circuit, asking it to dismiss the case, based on his 3 lawyers’ argument that American freedom isn’t real.

    When the case reaches the appeals courts later this Spring, pain patients have the opportunity to file Amicus Curiae briefs in the case. Every organization of pain patients that can possibly hire a lawyer and draft an Amicus brief, should consider doing so.

    The Opioid Crisis first appeared in the same rural West Virginia communities where a surge in methamphetamine addiction began. People addicted to meth become unable to sleep, because of a chemical imbalance that meth causes in the human brain. Quitting meth is difficult…even Dr Kolodny agrees with that in his book on the subject…so it should have been obvious that the thousands of people who died by mixing whiskey with sleeping pills and opioids, were trying to force themselves to sleep, despite being addicted to meth. Yet DEA insists that deadly methamphetamine is only a Schedule II drug…legal for treating ADHD. Cannabis, kept illegal by DEA as a Schedule I drug, shows promise as a better and safer ADHD drug. (Indeed, of about 21 million Americans who have ADHD, nearly 18.7 million become hard-core cannabis users, who continue using cannabis despite every DEA effort to force them off of it.). It appears that DEA has actually caused the Opioid Crisis by keeping the bad ADHD drug legal and prohibiting the good ADHD drug…and this consequence is to be expected, when people too ignorant to get a license to practice medicine, try to practice medicine without a license. (I wrote a research paper to the FDA’s opioid rulemaking docket, warning FDA of this very problem. It can be read here: http://www.academia.edu/35612995/Evidence-Based_Policymaking_Whats_Absent_from_the_Opioid_Crisis ).

    DEA propaganda seeks to confuse the public about the needs of pain patients who need opioids, with the problem of methamphetamine addicts who are diverting opioids and mixing them with sleeping pills and alcohol to help them survive the side-effects of methamphetamine. Even pain patients who have no possible use for cannabis, are being harmed by DEA’s cannabis prohibition policy. (That’s in addition to the harm, that any patient with neuropathic pain who could actually benefit from cannabis, also suffers by not having legal access to cannabis-based medications.).

    Mr Washington’s case against DEA is very narrowly focused on cannabis policy. We pain patients can argue, in Amicus Curiae briefs, how the DEA’s practicing medicine without a license, has harmed people in so many other ways. It’s time we got organized and prepared to make that case in the courts, so that the courts can force DEA into compliance with the law.

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